Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. November 13, 2022.

Editorial: America’s free and fair elections continue

Another free and fair election is in the books.

There were some races won on razor-thin margins and some by landslides. Others still remain too close to call. All of that comes with the territory and is part of what American elections look like.

Consider the state auditor’s race. When two Iowa counties conducted administrative recounts Thursday, the tables turned. Where Republican challenger Todd Halbur had appeared to narrowly edge out Democratic incumbent Rob Sand late Tuesday night, the recounts might tell a different story.

In double-checking election results, Des Moines and Warren counties each found discrepancies. In Des Moines County, about 800 eligible absentee votes hadn’t been counted. In Warren County, results from five precincts hadn’t been entered into the total — leaving 2,000 ballots uncounted. That led to a shift in Sand’s direction. Halbur then called for a full statewide recount of the auditor’s race.

Fair enough. That’s how elections work. We examine the process to ensure that any mistakes are caught and corrected.

Too often, people are suspicious of any election result they didn’t anticipate. There’s a reason the polls don’t always get it right. Ultimately, the decision lies in the will of the electorate, and that can’t entirely be predicted. But a surprising outcome does not equate to voter fraud. It’s time to restore faith in the elections process.

Ever since the false claims made by former President Donald Trump — and repeated by many of his supporters — suggesting fraud in the 2020 presidential race, American elections have come under scrutiny. Now, with another national election under our belts, it’s time to put those false allegations to rest. The claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election have been rejected and debunked by multiple courts, state governments and members of Trump’s own former administration.

In both 2020 and 2022, a veteran Republican secretary of state was at the helm in Iowa, and high voter turnout brought victories for GOP candidates in several high-profile races in both years. Secretary of State Paul Pate has been diligent in maintaining the integrity of the process in Iowa.

Some safeguards include:

— Our voting is done on paper ballots — and there’s no hacking a paper ballot.

— Voting tabulators are not connected to the internet.

— Post-election audits take place in randomly selected precincts in all 99 counties following the election. A bipartisan team hand-counts the ballots to ensure they match the totals from the vote tabulators. The audits consistently produce a 100% match.

Dubuque County Auditor Kevin Dragotto went to great lengths to engage voters and build confidence in the elections process, even writing a weekly Ask the Auditor column, which ran in the Telegraph Herald in the weeks before the election, addressing voter concerns and questions.

Maybe your favorite candidates won this year, and maybe they didn’t. Either way, we must accept the outcome of the election and move on with confidence that the American elections system continues to be one of integrity.

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Des Moines Register. November 13, 2022.

Editorial: Will Iowa’s red-state government serve the people or a platform?

The members of the expanded GOP majority should take care to define their jobs in terms of what’s best for Iowa, not what’s best for Republicans.

Voters last week shredded almost every remaining obstacle to an unfettered Republican agenda in Iowa.

As the governor, nearly two-thirds of state legislators and the first Republican attorney general and state treasurer in decades begin work to act on the confidence voters showed in them, they should take care to define their jobs in terms of what’s best for Iowa, not what’s best for Republicans.

Brenna Bird’s job is to be ‘Iowa’s attorney general’

Attorney General-elect Brenna Bird takes the reins from Democrat Tom Miller, who has been in office since 1979 except for one four-year stint in the early 1990s.

A constant refrain of Bird’s campaign was her enthusiasm for suing the Biden administration, as Republican attorneys general have been doing relentlessly in the past two years over COVID-19 rules, immigration policy, student loan debt relief and more. Such multistate lawsuits started growing in frequency during the Obama and Trump presidencies. Gov. Kim Reynolds called often at campaign events for voters to give her “my own attorney general.”

Bird’s and Reynolds’ emphasis might have been good politics, but they should take a far broader view of the attorney general’s work in practice. State law lays out 15 responsibilities for the top lawyer, only one of which is going to court when “the interest of the state requires such action.”

The primary job of the Iowa attorney general is not filing political grandstanding lawsuits against Democratic presidents, but rather running a large law firm that represents almost all state agencies.

Among the job’s many duties, Miller made consumer protection a top priority. It would be regrettable if headline-grabbing partisan lawsuits supplant nuts-and-bolts work against scammers and others who would hurt Iowans.

And as for who tells Bird what to do? Reynolds put it best herself in 2019 when she told Miller to stop suing Trump without her permission but rejected putting such limits into the Iowa Code: “I am mindful that the Attorney General is also elected by, and directly accountable to, the people of Iowa.” Reynolds declined permission for Miller to join dozens of lawsuits — but they continued without Iowa’s involvement. Bird would do well to limit her and her staff’s time to cases where the grievance with the federal government is specific to Iowa.

That’s consistent with what Bird told Carrie Campbell Severino for a piece in National Review this fall, after calling Miller “Biden’s attorney general”: “When I’m attorney general, I’m going to be Iowa’s attorney general.”

Public education likely to come under attack again

Reynolds will certainly next year again push a bill to allow families to use taxpayer money on private K-12 education expenses. Two previous iterations have foundered in the Iowa House, despite a large Republican majority in the chamber. The Republican advantage is growing by about four more seats, to the point where the GOP could pass legislation even over the disapproval of a fifth of its caucus.

The governor’s willingness to campaign against incumbents who opposed her plans and the new composition of the chamber don’t change that the underlying idea is wrong-headed. Democrats and Republicans alike will of course have to evaluate any new proposal on its own merits, but they should not accept any program that further threatens the stability of the public education the state makes available to every child.

Stop reflexively cutting taxes, cutting into local control

In four years of all-Republican rule at the Statehouse, lawmakers have repeatedly revised Iowa’s tax code to provide sizable benefits to businesses and wealthy individuals. Those who are less well off get crumbs, and don’t get to benefit from services or quality of life that might have been available if state government actually used the money.

Republicans aren’t stopping, and they could see fit to take another crack at limiting how local governments levy property taxes. Counties and municipalities large and small alike could be forced into unpalatable choices about the day-to-day services they provide constituents. The Legislature has done enough meddling with local decisions in recent years. Lawmakers should let people who want property tax relief lobby their councilors and supervisors instead of trying to impose new one-size-fits-all rules from Des Moines.

Kim Reynolds should face the news media routinely

Reynolds’ victory Tuesday was so overwhelming that the Associated Press called the race for her the instant the polls closed. Her approval rating is above 50%. The only time an incumbent governor has lost an election here in the past 60 years was in 2010, when Democrat Chet Culver was opposed by Republican Terry Branstad, a previous four-term governor. Given all that, it is hard to figure what she and her staff have against holding regular news conferences with Iowa media, something she pledged to do in 2018.

To be clear about this: The governor owes nothing to news websites and television and radio stations and print publications. But her constituents would benefit from hearing from her outside the context of planned events and communications, and she and the rest of the executive branch would benefit from sharpening their rationale for decisions in the face of skeptical questioning. Shunning the press is en vogue, but it’s not the press that is injured. It’s the public.

Abortion litigation could help reveal leaders’ direction early on

An early test for the reshaped Iowa government will come after a state judge rules on whether Iowa’s ban on almost all abortions should go into effect. Republicans have so far been content to leave the ball in the state judiciary’s hands. In the meantime, they’ve had time to see abortion rights win out in nearly every place where a measure has been put before American voters. The Iowa Poll in recent years has consistently shown that Iowans broadly support abortion being legal in many circumstances.

Our leaders’ statements and actions on this issue in 2023 will give an early indication of whether the people put in office last week are serving the residents of Iowa or serving a party platform.

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Quad Cities Times. November 12, 2022.

Editorial: This really should not be an issue

If introduced to someone names Jonathan who immediately politely asks you to call him “John,” the vast majority of people are going to do exactly that. He wants to be called John. He goes by the name of John. Out of courtesy and respect, call him “John.”

That doesn’t make either of you “woke.” Instead, you’re both part of a society attempting and adapting to ongoing change.

Let’s take it a step further. Someone tells you John prefers the pronoun of “they” as opposed to “he/him.” John also lists his preferred pronoun as “they/their” at the bottom of his company emails.

To call John what he wants to be called isn’t a difficult chore, is it? We’ve done that all along. For those involved in public communication – reporters, those conducting interviews, people speaking at news conferences – “they” presents a bit of difficulty. “They” goes against what they’ve been taught. Readers and listeners are as likely to be confused hearing “they” used as a pronoun.

But the language changes regularly. This is just a recent change, and a big one that cuts across all sections of society. The use presents a challenge. We’ve coped with language changes all our lives. The biggest difference is language changes quickly and we now have tools to make those changes clear to millions of people at once.

Choosing to make pronoun preferences clear to others is a recent occurrence, one which goes hand in hand with raised profiles for LBGTQ+ individuals. Some have chosen to see this as an attempted takeover of society by non-binary individuals. Entertainment companies are branded with the slur of “woke” when they dare to show worlds with more possibilities than what art has presented for decades, if not centuries.

And make no mistake. “Woke” is definitely a slur, or at the very least, a barbed criticism. The word has been weaponized the way “snowflake” is, and has become derogatory in the same fashion of “cancel culture.”

Critics afraid of “cancel culture” haven’t seemed to notice that those who claim to have been cancelled are really still heard as much as they were before being “cancelled.”

Dictionary definitions of the current use of “woke” use phrases like “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.”

Isn’t that a goal we all should share? Don’t we want to include everyone?

The death of actress Nichelle Nichols brought the idea again to the fore. People of color and women have cited Nichols as an inspiration, both as an actress on “Star Trek” and as a recruiter for NASA. For the first time, many were seeing something they hadn’t seen before – someone who looked like them as a part of popular culture, portraying something we hadn’t previously seen.

Are there people who get overzealous in their execution of being “woke”? Sure. Many who find something new that means an important change in their lives can turn preachy and obnoxious, whether they’ve begun working out, quit a bad habit or found a sub-section of society that speaks to them.

Their avid advocacy for their ideas doesn’t, however, mean they’re wrong.

Demonizing “woke” sets us up for another us-versus-them battle. That battle makes a mockery of anyone who actually believes in the idea of America as a melting pot.

And honestly, there’s nothing wrong or problematic about calling people what they prefer to be called. You’re not being oppressed when you’re asked to do that.

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